It’s a menacing, dreamlike tableau: two identical knife-wielding men, poised for an attack inside a cockfighting ring.
That eerie bit of double vision is just one of the striking moments in “Crónica de una muerte anunciada/Chronicle of a Death Foretold,” a taut and sometimes luminous production from GALA Hispanic Theatre. Adapted by Jorge Alí Triana from the novella by Gabriel García Márquez, and artfully directed by José Zayas, this lyrical but swift-moving drama weaves vivid images that spotlight a small town’s complicity in a murder. That cockfighting ring, in particular, transforms into locales that include a steamily passion-filled bedroom, a butcher’s shop where killers sharpen their knives, and the site of a community celebration that comes complete with a dancing priest.
The fenced-in ring also represents a courtroom. After all, everyone in the tight-knit South American town that was home to Santiago Nasar (Nicolás Carrá) knew that the twins Pedro and Pablo Vicario (José González and Edwin R. Bernal) intended to murder him. So why did no one manage to avert the crime? If it comes to that, were the twins even correct in suspecting Nasar of deflowering their sister Angela (Inés Domínguez del Corral)?
“Chronicle” delves into these intertwined mysteries, roaming forward and backward in time and introducing us to townspeople, including Nasar’s mother (Marta Cartón), a noted interpreter of dreams. To approximate the knowing yet incantatory tone of the original novella, adapter Triana has turned the colorful characters into a kind of Greek chorus that recounts — speaker by speaker — the prelude to, and aftermath of, the murder. The device emphasizes the story’s tragic inevitability while also highlighting the intimacy of the town, where everyone knows everyone else’s business. (The play is performed in Spanish with English surtitles.)
Domínguez is particularly compelling as the naive but daring Angela, and Erick Sotomayor invests Angela’s enigmatic suitor, Bayardo San Román, with romantic charisma: The sequence that evokes the pair’s wedding night — with a sheet that floats sensually onto the floor — has an electric charge. But all of the actors move confidently in and out of the play’s fluid storytelling, role-juggling briskly and often standing around the cockfighting ring as spectators.
Adding resonance to the whole, composer and sound designer William K. D’Eugenio contributes aptly unsettling sound effects (ominous clanging, etc.), and costume and properties designer Alicia Tessari helps capture the flavor of a bustling town. Elizabeth Jenkins McFadden designed the set, whose central ring underscores the themes of violence, interconnectedness and voyeurism.
“Chronicle” is not the only current show to ponder questions of guilt and interconnectedness while drawing on classic literature. At the Mead Theatre Lab at Flashpoint, Annalisa Dias is performing the solo piece “One Word More,” which imagines the experience of Sycorax, Caliban’s mother, who is only referred to, never seen, in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”
“The Tempest” has often inspired anti-colonialist and social-justice-oriented interpretations: Prospero’s fraught relationships with Caliban and Ariel, and the backstory of his island home, provide fodder for such approaches. Working in this vein, Dias turns Sycorax, described as a witch in the text, into an oppressed feminist heroine, whose silencing by the patriarchy leaves the world the poorer.
In physically expressive and sometimes dancelike sequences, we witness Sycorax’s skirmishes with Prospero during his early days on the island. The ex-Duke of Milan is represented by a voice-over: The character’s racist- and sexist-sounding observations are largely drawn from the journals of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Complementing the Sycorax narrative, Dias also depicts a graduate student who stumbles across Prospero’s journal while struggling to write her thesis. This section of the play includes some amusing spoofing of academic jargon. (Lighting design by E-hui Woo helps keep the two storylines distinct.)
Collectively developed, written by Dias, and directed by Bridget Grace Sheaff, “One Word More” provides food for thought. The set’s sculpture installations, which suggest fragmented human bodies (Brian Fernandes-Halloran is the designer), add a suitably bleak note. But overall, the piece feels labored and didactic — all the more so since Shakespeare’s magical “Tempest” looms over it.
Crónica de una muerte anunciada/Chronicle of a Death Foretold, adapted by Jorge Alí Triana from the novella by Gabriel García Márquez. Directed by José Zayas; lighting design, Mary Keegan; choreography, Katie Bücher; fight choreography, Jonathan Ezra Rubin. With Karen Morales, Lorena Sabogal and others. In Spanish with English surtitles. About 65 minutes. Tickets: $20-$42. Through May 8 at GALA Theatre, 3333 14th St. NW. Call 202-234-7174 or visit galatheatre.org.
One Word More, written and performed by Annalisa Dias; directed by Bridget Grace Sheaff; costume design, Tori Boutin; sound, DeLesslin George-Warren. About one hour. Tickets: $15-$20. Through April 30 at the Mead Theatre Lab at Flashpoint, 916 G St. NW. Visit culturaldc.org or onewordmore.com.